CABLE NEWS ENDURING POLAR DISORDER? Displaying the increasing political polarization of the cable news audience, CNN, which has been running a distant second in the ratings to Fox News, overtook its rival during the Democratic convention in Boston last week as it drew an average audience of 2.3 million during primetime versus 2.1 million for Fox News. CNN peaked on Thursday, the final day of the convention, with an audience of 2.7 million versus Fox's 2.5 million. The figures are expected to reverse themselves -- at the very least-- during the Republican National Convention, since studies have indicated that Fox's audience is largely conservative and Republican. Although the cable networks together posted a small audience gain over 2000 during the convention, Tom Rosenstiel at the Project for Excellence in Journalism told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "We are not seeing a transition to a cable age," he said. "We are seeing a transition to a fragmented age." Meanwhile, the New York Postreported that Microsoft is likely to shed its stake in the no. 3-rated cable news network MSNBC.


The Big 3 networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, took in 7.7 percent more in ad revenue during their second quarter this year than they did a year ago, according to a study conducted by the Broadcast Cable Financial Management Association by accounting firm Ernst & Young. All of the increases came during primetime (up 10 percent), late-night (up 12.1 percent), and early morning (up 12.6 percent) time periods, with daytime earnings falling 6.4 percent.


Cox Enterprises said today (Monday) that it wants to buy the 38 percent of Cox Communications that it doesn't already own and take the company private. It offered $7.9 billion, or $32 a share, representing a 16 percent premier above Friday's closing price. In a statement Cox Enterprises CEO James Kennedy said, "An increasingly competitive environment convinces us that future investments in the cable industry are best made through a private structure."


Executives of the Spanish-language TV network Telemundo are attributing their recently rising ratings in large part to their decision to train all of their on-air talent to speak with a Mexican accent, the Washington Postreported today (Monday). Telemundo President James M. McNamara told the newspaper that he has hired a team of dialogue coaches to "neutralize" the accents of the network's actors, whether they hail from Cuba, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru or Chile, so that they speak like Mexicans. Univision has no plans to embrace a similar policy, President Ray Rodriguez told the Post,saying that he appreciated "that our talent should maintain the essence of who they are, and not abandon their valuable uniqueness and individual culture and heritage they bring to their role at Univision."


Damon Wayans has landed Michael Jordan to guest star on ABC's season premiere of My Wife and Kidson Sept. 19, TV Guidereports in its current issue. The magazine reports that the plot of the episode involves Wayans character encountering Jordan at a basketball fantasy camp, where the two eventually play one-on-one.


Veteran character actor Sam Edwards, who appeared in dozens of TV shows but is perhaps best remembered for his role as the town banker of Little House on the Prairiefrom 1978-1983, died on July 28 at the age of 89, the Associated Press reported today (Monday), citing Edwards's stepson, William. Edwards' career dated back to his childhood, when he appeared on radio in the 1930s with his family in The Adventures of Sonny and Buddyand later on The Edwards Family.SURPRISE OPENING FOR THE VILLAGE While critics complained on Friday that they were not surprised by M. Night Shyamalan's surprise ending in The Village, they were expressing astonishment today (Monday) at studio estimates indicating that the movie earned $50.8 million in its opening weekend. The film represented Disney's first hit of the summer, following such failures as Home on the Range, Around the World in 80 Daysand King Arthur. The film also represented Disney's best July opening -- beating last year's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, which opened with $46.6 million. Last weekend's box-office champ, Universal's The Bourne Supremacy, slipped to second place with $23.4 million, while Paramount's The Manchurian Candidateopened in third place with $20.3 million. New Line's Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, opened in seventh place with just $5.2 million, despite mostly rave reviews. Far more disappointing was the performance of Universal's family film Thunderbirds, which didn't even make the top 10. The Universal movie, which cost about $60 million to make, debuted with only $2.7 million. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:1. The Village, $50.8 million; 2.The Bourne Supremacy, $23.4 million; 3.The Manchurian Candidate, $20.2 million; 4.I, Robot, $10.05 million; 5. Spider-Man 2,$8.5 million; 6. Catwoman, $6.1 million; 7. Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, $5.15 million; 8. A Cinderella Story, $4.7 million; 9 (tie). Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, $3.1 million; 9 (tie). Fahrenheit 9/11, $3.1 million,


The nation's theaters reported record ticket sales in July of $1.32 billion, up from $1.2 billion in July last year, the previous record for the month, according to a survey by The Hollywood Reporter published today (Monday). The trade paper said that total admissions rose to 213 million, up from last year's 200.7 million, a six-percent rise.


Additional members of the Saudi royal family have taken exception to Michael Moore's assertions about them in Fahrenheit 9/11. In an interview with the London Sunday Telegraph, Prince Turki al-Faisal charged that the film was "grossly unfair" to the Saudis. He observed that the 9/11 Commission report found "no evidence that any flights of Saudi nationals, domestic or international, took place before the reopening of national airspace on the morning of Sept 13, 2001." Several news reports have documented private flights with Saudis aboard having taken place in the U.S. on Sept. 13, when commercial operations began to resume on a limited basis. The Tampa Tribune, for example, has cited eyewitness accounts and police records indicating that on Sept. 13 a group of Saudi nationals departed from Raytheon Airport Services, a private hangar near Tampa International Airport, and landed at Lexington, KY., where they took another flight out of the country. In any case, Moore says in his documentary: "At least six private jets and nearly two dozen commercial planes carried the Saudis and the Bin Ladens out of the U.S. after September 13th" (italics ours)." Meanwhile, Kuwait said on Saturday that Moore's film will not be shown in that country. The Associated Press quoted an official of the Information Ministry as saying, "We have a law that prohibits insulting friendly nations, and ties between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are special."


Pixar Animation CEO Steve Jobs has undergone a surgical procedure to treat a rare form of pancreatic cancer. In an email to employees of Apple Computer Inc., which he also heads, Jobs said that the treatment was successful and that he will not be required to undergo post-operative treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation. Pixar President Ed Catmull will oversee the company during Jobs' recovery.


Euro Disney acknowledged today (Monday) that some of its creditors have balked at its debt restructuring plan and obtained a two-month extension to win approval. The plan requires unanimous agreement among Euro Disney's lenders, the company said in a statement. The Walt Disney Co., which holds a 39-percent stake in the company, has agreed to accept deferred payments and to buy additional shares. Without agreement by all lenders to defer debt payments, Euro Disney would be forced to close. Shares of the stock fell to 27 cents in Paris, a record low.